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Jozef Miškolci, Derrick Armstrong and Ilektra Spandagou

Abstract

The academic literature on the practice of inclusive education presents diverse and at times contradictory perspectives in how it is connected to practices of distributed leadership. Depending on the approach, on the one hand, inclusive educational practice may enable distributed school leadership, while on the other hand, it may allow for hierarchical management styles if staff members do not implement inclusive practices. This paper explores how school staff members perceive and understand the relationship between practices of inclusive education and distributed leadership in two public primary schools: one in New South Wales (Australia) and one in Slovakia. These two schools were identified by external informants as good practice examples of inclusive education. Using qualitative research methods based on interviews, this paper identifies two main understandings of this relationship. First, although distributed leadership may encourage the goals of inclusive education, it may in some circumstances also hinder their achievement. Second, distributed leadership can be constructed as an indispensable component of inclusive education, and this has implications for how the target groups of inclusive education are conceptualised. This paper also discusses the wider social and political contexts of the two primary schools and how in each case context significantly constrained and shaped understandings and practices of inclusion and distributed leadership in the practice of teachers and principals.